The African State Bowls Championships wrapped up on Saturday with Kenya finishing second with 29 points as South Africa garnered 36 points to strike gold.
Zimbabwe, on 28 points, took bronze at the Karen Country Club in Nairobi while Botswana came in fourth with 22 points followed by Namibia (16) and Zambia (13).
The biennial tournament attracted six nations with Malawi and Swaziland dropping out due to lack of players.
Fridah Mwangi lost 9-21 to her opponent from Botswana, Boikhutso Mooketsi, in the women’s contest, robbing Kenya the chance of being in the medals bracket for the singles.
The tournament featured all four lawn bowling disciplines with Kenya’s men's team grabbing gold in the singles, silver in the pairs and bronze in both trips and fours.
The women's team was outclassed by Zimbabwe, South Africa and Zambia in the singles and by Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe in the fours, leaving them with silver medals in the trips and bronze in the pairs. Kenya showed great improvement by taking the overall silver medal compared to the last championships held in South Africa in 2017 where they left with a bronze medal.
Lack of public training greens in the country was one of the major challenges facing the Kenyan players and their coaches.
They have implored the county governments to invest more in facilities to help grow the sport and give it the recognition it needs.
Kenya men's team manager, Bernard Ndung'u, says the fact that most greens are within private members’ clubs limits the public from playing and creating awareness of the sport which puts them in a difficult situation whenever they want to organise local or international tournaments.
"Countries like South Africa have invested in public greens, attracting over 4,000 players to the sport and giving them a larger pool of players to pick from when they want to compete,” he says.
“If our government did the same, then our players would have no excuse but to get gold," adds Ndung'u who also laments that they have received no financial assistance from the government.
Lawn bowling has also for a long time been presented to the public as a “whites only” sport, making interested parties feel discriminated and others lack interest in understanding the game. But Kenya’s gold medal winner in the men's singles, Benson Kariuki, says everyone is invited to join the game. Kenya’s teams are now training for the next championships to be held in 2021 in Namibia while Kariuki and Eunice Mbugua prepare for the “Champions of Champions” tournament to be held in Australia in October.
Men: Cephas Mwihaki (Skip, Limuru Country Club), Joseph Njagi (Second, Nairobi Country Club), Joseph Kitosi (Third, Karen Country Club), Waweru Ngugi (Lead, Limuru Country Club) and Benson Kariuki (Nairobi Country Club).
Women: Susan Kariuki (lead), Esther Walker (skip), Celestine Masila (second) and Christine Mbae (Third) and Fridah Mwangi.